With At The Drive-In's reunion tour now a passing memory and the recent acrimonious split of his mind-bending prog crew, Mars Volta, prolific noodler Omar Rodriguez-Lopez is currently putting most of his energy into new post-punk-influenced outfit Bosnian Rainbows, who release their self-titled debut next month. Whereas he called all the shots for a decade in Mars Volta, he's now happy to be sharing the creative load with his new band mates. Q sat down with him ahead of the band's recent appearance at London's 100 Club to discuss self-expression, his relationship with Cedric Bixler-Zavala and what really happened during the At The Drive-In reunion shows...
How does it feel to be part of a collaboration again? "It's amazing, it's liberating and it's invigorating. It all sounds so dumb. There's nothing like the feeling of getting schooled by the band. That's the main thing; that's the only way you get better."
You recently said you have no interest in music scenes or entertainment, but instead self-expression. What is it exactly you needed to express with Bosnian Rainbows? "Just everything."
Anything in particular? "You use the tools around you to express yourself as a person. We all put it within our own context in order to express the sum of human experience. Everything that I'm thinking about, everything that keeps me up at night. Joy - everything that makes me laugh. That's what we come together to express."
What was the writing process for the new album like? "Just completely collaborative. Everyone's contributing everything all the time. You couldn't pull one piece away from the other because it would all fall apart."
Who brought the riffs and melodies to the table? "No, no. We all came with personalities. To put it into context, we all lived together for a month before even playing a note. We all lived in a house in Germany. We hung out everyday. We played football, ate, drank coffee, went for walks, watched a lot of movies, made a lot of jokes and music is just a result. When you get in a room and get around instruments, which are just tools and vehicles, then you build the thing quickly without having to analyse it too much."
You're known for constantly pushing yourself forward and making challenging music, so how much did you challenge yourself on this record? "When you're with the right people nothing has challenging. When you're with your friends, conversation flows and a good time happens. But we challenge each other to be the best versions of ourselves we can be. Musically speaking, I get to be playing with three amazing fucking songwriters. So the song writing part isn't difficult. The difficult part is 'am I bringing my best song writing to the table,' because if I'm not then I'm not going to fucking bother."
You've said you listened to one of your favourite albums, Pink Floyd's Piper At The Gate Of Dawn, over and over before making the record, who else was on your playlistat the time? "Loads of stuff. Siouxsie, The Missing Persons, Wayne Shorter. Shit, all the greats, man. Anything from Steve Reich to Wayne Shorter to Tangerine Dream to Tchaikovsky, Tom Petty and Marvin Gaye."
The album's a lot more stripped back than your previous work, how do you think your hardcore At The Drive-In and Mars Volta fan base will react? "I don't think about that. I only think about it when someone poses that question. It's unanswerable. That's an abstract concept. You'd have to put a guy in front of me and take it case by case. The thing to worry about does it move you or not? I know how I react when I hear our music - I feel like dancing. So something's got to be right."
It's a record for dancing? "It's an emotional record that strikes an emotional chord in me as a human being and I'm not a particularly special human being, so I know that if it moves me, it will move somebody else; I've learned that just from travelling. When I go to Japan, I encounter people who don't speak Spanish or English, but they're being moved by the same themes: sex, love, death, god, death. That's what preoccupies the human mind with every thing that we do or feel. That's what's driving the human animal."
Do you miss working with Cedric Zavala-Bixler at all? "Of course! Cedric's my childhood friend, he's my brother, we're practically the same blood."
Do you feel any resentment towards him publicly for blaming you for the split of Mars Volta? "Of course not. That's his perspective. First of all, resentment isn't a way I chose to live. Second of all, how could I be mad at him for a point of view. I respect that. To go further, nothing that he could ever say would ever stop me from loving him. I have true love; it's much deeper than whether six people get on stage and play certain songs."
You've heard his new record, what does it sound like? "I've only heard bits and pieces, and it's changing. It's not fair to comment on anything like that until he gets a chance to put it out and say what he wants about it."
Did you enjoy How your time in both At The Drive-In and Mars Volta? "Fuck, are you kidding? I toured the world, I ate well, I met Deantoni [Parks, drummer], I met Nicci [Kasper, keyboardist], I met Teri [Gender Bender, singer]. I met all sorts of other people. How did it go? Holy fucking shit it went like nothing I could have ever written out of my own imagination! I met most of my musical idols, who actually came to talk to me. I got to meet Jimmy Page, Herbie Hancock, Iggy Pop, Deborah Harry... holy shit! How did it go and how is it going? Insane, incredible!"
What was your standpoint on the ATD-I reunion gigs? "Maybe you're asking the wrong person. For me it was tainted with awful, awful tragedy and the most difficult time in my life. The person I'm closest to and who gave birth to me passed away a week before having to go onstage. My mind was in the place of caring about whether I was onstage or not, or what anyone thought about what I was or wasn't doing onstage. Only a year later can I barely talk about it, and even then I'm still trying to come to terms what that era meant for me as a person. At least I was around people who knew me well and cared for me. I was around old childhood friends, so in that sense a reunion was good at the time. My mother always told me: If you start something you finish it. So I couldn't back out of the responsibility. That's obviously something I thought about too... I didn't care about going onstage or money, or any of that shit. The simple lesson in responsibility and doing what you said you were going to do. My education, in that sense, was enough."
At The Drive-In's still an open book? "Everything's an open book. I only open new doors, I don't close them. Closing doors takes way too much energy that could be used for something."
So what's next for Bosnian Rainbows? "More touring, more recording and more living together. We're coming back to the UK in August. After this we go back to Hamburg and we'll be there for a couple of weeks. Our living together is the project and the music is a by-product of that." Jamie Skey @jamie_skey
For more head to Rodriguezlopezproductions.com/Bosnian_Rainbows.